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Pioneer Editorial: Now's the time for a budget,GOP

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opinion Bemidji, 56619

Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

Monday's state budget forecast comes indeed as good news. Democrats and Republicans have been squabbling for months over how best to solve a $6.2 billion state budget gap. Suddenly, with Monday's news, that gap narrowed to $5 billion.

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That still doesn't solve the stae's budget woes. A $5 billion deficit is just as daunting.

But it should leave more room for compromise. Gov. Mark Dayton, a Democrat, did so by immediately dropping his proposal for a temporary 3 percent income tax surtax on incomes above $500,000, which would have raised $918 million. He hopefully can also restore some funding to nursing home reimbursements, so cuts aren't as steep.

To us, that already seems like a unilateral compromise. We've yet to even see a Republican budget. But if the Republicans have a "no new taxes" stance that they won't move from, despite that taxes have remained unchanged for a decade, where can they compromise?

Gov. Dayton's bottom line is that there will be tax fairness. That means raising taxes on the state's wealthiest to restore the breaks they got 10 years ago. Their percent of income going to taxes should be fairly comparable to that of the middle class. Where further can the governor compromise?

With Monday's positive report, he took nearly $1 billion in new taxes off the table, leaving another $3 billion in proposed new revenues. The Republicans, as part of a further compromise, may be able to whittle that down some. But to no tax increase, no.

Another GOP argument is that the current budget growth is enough. That would be true, if services remained unchanged or decreased. Demographics -- more people moving to the state and more and more baby boomers retiring, plus the sour economy -- have put a strain on state services that will grow.

With the prospect of making $5 billion in spending cuts -- 13 percent of the state's general fund -- Republican legislative leaders need to move now to put out their budget for public scrutiny and how potentially higher property taxes will affect their pocketvooks, and their quality of life.

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